Microsoft's History With the Tablet PC

The recent Slate PC demo at the Consumer Electronics Show is just Microsoft's latest foray in a long line of tablet device ventures.

Tablets of the Past

Microsoft's demonstration at the recent Consumer Electronics Show keynote of "Slate PCs" made by Hewlett-Packard, Pegatron, and Archos is by no means its first attempt to help develop such a form factor. The Slate PC seems to be identical to a Tablet with only the name changed. In fact, the Tablet PC has long been a pet project for Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who showed the first Tablet PC prototype in 2000 at the now-defunct Comdex trade show in Las Vegas.

That night, Gates described the device, which featured input via stylus only, as an evolutionary step in PC functionality and usability. For the next ten years leading up to CEO Steve Ballmer's introduction of the new "slates", which support Windows 7 touchscreen features, the company has tried to make the Tablet catch-on but with little success.

Here is a brief look at the evolution of Microsoft's Tablet offerings.

Related stories:

Microsoft's 2010 task: Make the cloud clear

Google's 10 toughest rivals

Evolution of the Netbook

The First Prototype

In 2000, Microsoft showed off this prototype and said the first Tablet PCs would come to market in 2002.

Compaq's Entry

In 2001, Compaq had a Tablet PC prototype with a Windows OS that it showed at Comdex. Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates said in his keynote: "The Tablet is a PC that is virtually without limits -- and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America."

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

In February 2003 Microsoft officially released Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, which was only available to OEMs, and manufacturers including HP, Toshiba, ViewSonic, and Xplore responded with machines that featured the new OS. At the unveiling of the OS in November 2002, Bill Gates held a Tablet PC on which he had written "Tablet PC is Super Cool!" The 2005 version of the OS was released in August 2004. Mainstream support for both editions ended in April 2009. Tablet PC functionality was built into the core OS starting with Vista.

Rugged Tablet

The Xplore Rugged Tablet PC was one of the machines that featured the new Windows XP Tablet PC Edition operating system.

Windows Powers Tablets

The 2005 version of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition featured enhancements that made the stylus pen a mainstream input device, integration with Office 2003 and Office OneNote 2003, and new capabilities for developers.

Lenovo Tablet Debuts

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shows off the new ThinkPad X41 Tablet from Lenovo at Microsoft's TechEd Conference in 2005. The machine featured Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.

Evolution of the Machine

In 2006, Fujitsu announced the ultra-light 12.1-inch screen LifeBook T4215 tablet PC with Windows.

Ballmer's Revelation at CES 2010

The giant screen at the CES 2010 conference magnifies what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is holding in his hands -- an HP "Slate PC." Ballmer offered few details but said it is "almost as portable as a phone and as powerful as a PC running Windows 7."

On the Drawing Board

Microsoft is working on a new tablet called Courier that features two touchscreens and opens like a book. Check out this short video to see how the device works.

The Future

In late 2008, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, began showing off the next step in the future of the Tablet PC. This video shows how the device may evolve.

Related Stories

Tablets Steal the Show at CES

The Dawn of the Tablet PC: CES 2010 Roundup

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors